Health News

Drug for seizures fatal in some patients: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - People treated with a sedative given to stop prolonged epileptic seizures may be at risk of serious complications or death, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.

Of 31 patients with prolonged seizures who were given the AstraZeneca drug propofol, also called Diprivan, over a 10-year period at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, three had cardiac arrest and two died.

“There is the potential for serious trouble,” said Dr. Vivek Iyer, who presented his findings at a meeting of American College of Chest Physicians in Philadelphia.

Propofol is commonly given in lower doses as a sedative during surgery, but has been used for many years to stop seizures in people with refractory status epilepticus, or RSE, a condition in which people fail to respond to two more commonly used drugs.

If not controlled, prolonged seizures can cause permanent brain damage.

Iyer and colleagues at Mayo studied records of 41 consecutive patients with refractory status epilepticus from 1997 to 2007 who were admitted to the intensive care unit with RSE. Thirty-one were treated with propofol; 10 got other drugs.

“When we looked at the charts, there was no explanation other than propofol to explain why they ended up with cardiac arrest,” Iyer said in a telephone interview.

“We firmly believe it is a drug toxicity,” he said.

Of the propofol-treated patients, Iyer said those who had a cardiac arrest were given a higher dose of the drug than other seizure patients in the study.

In cardiac arrest, a person’s heart stops circulating blood. Without swift resuscitation to restore a normal heart rhythm, cardiac arrest patients die within minutes.

“We were able to resuscitate one patient back from cardiac arrest using CPR and other measures,” he said.

Iyer said Mayo Clinic has stopped using propofol to manage these patients.